One of the things that bothers me about shopping for toys is that “need to have” feeling. It seems that there are two ends of the “need to have” spectrum.
One end is the commercial, media and advertising-driven branding that occurs, where children “need to have” the latest Tickle Me Elmo, or Bratz doll. As an unplugged household, my children are not subjected to the same barrage of ads so this is not such a problem. They do pick up some information on the playground at school (even at their small Montessori school). They know who Sponge Bob and the Disney Princesses are, but they really don’t know much about all the character toys out there.
Even if we venture to the toy aisle of Walmart or Kmart (unfortunately our only two local “toy store” options), they are interested in looking, and sometimes express interest, but don’t “need to have” those popular toys. They love inspecting toy catalogs that come in the mail and often see something in there that they “need,” especially my son (age 5) and especially if it involves a weapon (I feel another post coming on about that subject!). But they are blissfully unaware of what is truly popular.
The other end of the spectrum of “toy need” is that of the “natural” toys, Waldorf-inspired toys, or Montessori-inspired toys. I believe that this “need” is driven more by parents than children. Many parents, myself included, want to supply their child with good quality, non-toxic (hopefully), long-lasting, educational toys. We “unplugged parents” don’t believe in the huge wave of new electronic toys marketed as being educational. We believe in simple, classic toys without noises or flashing lights. Toys such as blocks, playsilks, simple wooden vehicles or dolls for example, are what we choose to buy for our children.
As a member of this second group, I love all those “Unplugged Toy Stores” that I link to in my left sidebar. The truth is however, that these toys are expensive for what they are, and the toys are often imported from Europe (which of course leaves a larger carbon footprint). Amanda of The Rowdy Pea recently wrote a wonderful post with some suggestions for making many of these toys yourself.
– Fun! (“Unplugged Project” anyone?)
– Inexpensive, or even free in some cases.
– And quality you can trust because you made it yourself!
I guess I’ll still seek out those websites, and buy those toys, but if I can make it easily myself, then I should really try to do that and feel a lot better about the whole “unplugged toy” shopping process! Thanks Amanda!
A few interesting toymaking links:
MotheringDotCommune-Toys and Dolls Page (discussion forum of Mothering.com) – interesting posts and suggestions for making your own Waldorf dolls and toys.
PlaystandPlans.com – plans for making your own playstands – $17.99 (but honestly, as Amanda points out, playstands seem pretty simple and a semi-decent handy-person should probably be able to figure it out.
Waldorf Doll photo from Wikimedia Commons, photographer Sebastian Sprenger, click here for full license information.